Loke Thye Kee, George Town, Penang (29 September, 2012)
Loke Thye Kee (GPS: 5.41703, 100.32992), at 2 Burmah Road, is a restored historic building and local landmark at the junction of Burmah Road and Penang Road. The building underwent as full restoration that was completed in 2012. Since then, a number of food and beverage outlets have opened in the new Loke Thye Kee.
Food & Beverage outlets at Loke Thye Kee
The Loke Thye Kee Restaurant occupies the 1st floor of the building. It serves Malaysian culsine and is open Tuesdays to Sundays from 11:00 am to 11:00 pm.
The Loke Thye Kee Bar operates on the roof terrace, offering a wide selection of wines, beers and cakes. The terrace affords a nice view of the surrouding buildings.
On the ground floor of the Loke Thye Kee building is the Loke Thye Kee Cafe which will open soon.
In its heydays, Loke Thye Kee was one of the most upmarket Chinese restaurant in Penang. However, by the later part of the 20th century, it had been reduced to a shell for its former grandeur, and by the turn of the 21st century was in very much a dilapidated state. During that time, the ground floor was occupied by various businesses, including a photo kiosk, while the top floors were unoccupied.
Loke Thye Kee Residences
Loke Thye Kee Residences is a boutique hotel beside Loke Thye Kee. It offers five well-furnished suites in the heart of the city. For details, click enter.
The original Loke Thye Kee was started in 1919 by two Hainanese brothers, Loy Kok Boon and Loy Kok Tai, who worked as cooks for Penang tycoon Khoo Sian Ewe. The brothers had desired to one day open their own restaurant. Learning of the desire of his two employees, Khoo Sian Ewe graciously released them from his employment, and even helped them found the restaurant that is Loke Thye Kee.
The original Loke Thye Kee was sited by the waterfront off Weld Quay, next to then busy Church Street Pier, and was known as Loke Hai Kee.
When the construction of Victoria Pier forced the relocation of Loke Hai Kee. In addition to The Great Wall, his bungalow on Penang Hill, Khoo Sian Ewe owned much of the land off Burmah Road. The Loy brothers sought the help of Khoo Sian Ewe, proposing the relocation of their restaurant to his property. And again, their former boss came to the rescue.
Loke Thye Kee after restoration (29 September, 2012)
Khoo Sian Ewe accepted their proposal and built a three-storey restaurant at the corner of Penang Road, Burmah Road and Khoo Sian Ewe Road (which was only named later). It was designed by Penang-born architect Chew Eng Sam (who also designed the Chinese Chamber of Commerce building, in the widely popular Arts & Crafts architecture style.
In memory of their original waterfront location, the new building was designed to resemble a ship. The structure is supposed to resemble a steamboat or ferry as though it was moving on a lake. The terraces serve as decks for the guests to imagine themselves as "passengers" on board the steamboat. The Loke Thye Kee Restaurant opened its doors to customers in 1929, and became a favorite place for matchmaking engagements, where two families come together to "examine the prospect", so to speak. In this game of tact and subtlety, a "yes" or "no" is pronounced by the way tea is drunk.
By the late 1970s, the restaurant was suffering a decline in business and it eventually closed down. From then on, the building became increasingly dilapidated, and by the turn of the 21st century, was in a forlorn semi-comatose state.
The inscription of George Town as a World Heritage Site brought positive repercussion, and a much needed breath of life to many pre-Second World War buildings in the city, one of which was Loke Thye Kee. A grant from ThinkCity helped in the restoration of the building, turning a building was had been a major eyesore into one that Penangites can once again be proud of. Since then, the new Loke Thye Kee has added a touch of class and elegants to this part of George Town and hopefully, become the new watering hole of the people of Penang.
The newly restored Loke Thye Kee (28 January, 2013)
Loke Thye Kee ground floor (28 January, 2013)
A new entrance plaque at Loke Thye Kee (29 September, 2012)
View of Loke Thye Kee before the restoration
2005 Loke Thye Kee Building in 2005 (2 July 2005)
2006 Loke Thye Kee Building in 2006 (8 August 2006)
2008 Loke Thye Kee in a neglected state, in 2008 (18 October 2008)
Loke Thye Kee in 2008 (16 July 2008)
2011, just before restoration commence Loke Thye Kee in mid 2011 (23 June, 2011)
Loke Thye Kee in 2011, before restoration commenced (26 December, 2011)
2012, as restoration nears completion Loke Thye Kee under restoration (20 May, 2012)
Updates on Loke Thye Kee Building & Businesses
18 December 2013: The Loke Thye Kee Restaurant opened as the main food & beverage outlet at the Loke Thye Kee building.
1 January 2013: French-inspired bistro Les Memoires opened for business at Loke Thye Kee. It offers a menu of fusion cuisine combining Western palate with local elements.
Updates on the Loke Thye Kee Restoration
19 December 2012: The announced opening of Loke Thye Kee Restaurant hasn't yet materialise.
27 September 2012: According to The Star, the RM2 million restoration of Loke Thye Kee is completed. The Loke Thye Kee Restaurant is expected to reopen in December 2012. It will be operated by food & beverage operator FoodPeople.
20 May, 2012: Loke Thye Kee is undergoing restoration through a grant under ThinkCity, a subsidiary of Khazanah Nasional Berhad. The restoration will include not only Loke Thye Kee but also the shophouses along Penang Road, collectively to be known as Penang Road Heritage Row, the shophouses along Phee Choon Street, collectively known as Phee Choon Place, and the Majestic Theatre. What it will be used for after the restoration will depend on parties interested in renting them for commercial use.
It is my hope that the restoration of Loke Thye Kee - which has been such an eye-sore in the city center, will not only preserve an important historic building but will also add vibrance and life to George Town.
Loke Thye Kee Restaurant is located at the start of Jalan Burma. From the Komtar Bus Terminal, walk along Jalan Tek Soon to Jalan Penang. Cross Jalan Penang and turn right. Walk along Jalan Penang until you arrive at the junction of Jalan Burma. Climb the pedestrian bridge. From the bridge, you can get a good view of Loke Thye Kee.
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